Whitmer proposes $250 million plan to improve Michigan state parks and trails
Federal COVID-19 relief money would be spent on infrastructure projects and preserving historic buildings
ST. IGNACE, Mich. (WJRT) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer traveled to one of Michigan’s most picturesque locations to announce a $250 million plan to improve state parks and trails.
With the Mackinac Bridge as a backdrop, Whitmer proposed spending part of Michigan’s federal COVID-19 relief money on making state parks, trails and recreation areas a more attractive destination for tourists. She wants to position Michigan as a recreation leader.
“Tourism is vital to Michigan’s economy and to our overall economic health, and COVID disproportionately harmed our tourism and hospitality sectors,” Whitmer said. “Investments in our public spaces make Michigan a more competitive and attractive destination for tourism, position us as a recreation leader, and are critical components of our seasonal and rural economies.”
The money would be spent on a backlog of improvement and maintenance projects across the Michigan State Parks system. Projects that include upgrading water and sanitary systems, preserving historic structures and installing or improving vital park infrastructure.
Whitmer said the projects make the parks more attractive to tourists, who support local economies around the facilities. She said studies show parks are responsible for 126,000 jobs paying over $4.7 billion across Michigan’s economy.
“This is a valuable use of our federal funds to help the communities who rely on tourism rebound from the public health crisis,” Whitmer said. “Parks bring us together. They are equally beloved by all Michiganders, regardless of geography or income, race or class or politics.”
State parks, trails and recreation areas saw a 30% increase in visitors during the coronavirus pandemic.
“As the number of visitors to Michigan’s 103 state parks has increased dramatically over the past couple of years, we’ve seen greater demands our park and trail infrastructure,” said Dan Eichinger, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “The funding announced by the governor today will give our state parks a badly needed boost, while also aiding the state’s recovery through our natural resources and outdoor recreation tourism.”
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